Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon and Kulka monologues)

December 30, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. And guess what: it’s the last day of Coynezaa:—my birthday! And guess what else? I have to go to the dentist and may have to get a tooth pulled. Some fun! The end of the annus horribilis. Because of this ill-timed annoyance, posting will be light today.

But the misery is leavened by this lovely birthday drawing that Jacques Hausser made for me. Ceiling Duck!!! (Jacques studies shrews, so there’s one in there, too.)

Well, it’s a crappy food day: National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, presumably to recover from all your holiday eating. It’s Bacon Day, for those still indulging,

Today’s Google Doodle (click on screenshot) celebrates Elizabeth Peratovich (1911-1958), described by Wikipedia as

“. . . an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives. In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States.”

News of the Day:

We have two waterfowl stories today, both about bird love. This first one is sad, and comes from the Guardian. It’s about a swan mourning for its dead mate (h/t: Jez):

Police and firefighters in Germany were forced to intervene to move an apparently “mourning” swan that was blocking a high-speed railway line, according to a statement released by the rescuers on Monday.

The swan was pictured blocking the line near Fuldatal, causing at least 20 trains to be cancelled, after a second swan was killed when it flew into the overhead line above the tracks.

After the accident the second swan settled on the railway tracks below, preventing trains from passing on the route from Kassel to Göttingen. According to reports in local media, firefighters brought in specialist equipment to remove the dead swan from the overhead lines and the second swan from the tracks, taking it to the Fulda river where it was released.

This almost brings tears to my eyes. And here’s a photo:

Reader Jeremy pointed me to a story about another beautiful but errant Mandarin duck drake (Aix galericulata), this one in a pond near Cincinnati. (If you recall, a Mandarin showed up in the Central Park pond last winter.)  But the Ohio drake seems to be in love with a mallard hen, and the species aren’t all that closely related (their common ancestor lived about 20 million years ago).  Reader Jeremy went to see the duck, snapped a photo of the drake and his would-be paramour, and said this:

I stopped by and took a couple of pictures from my phone last week. Thought you might be interested. Beautiful bird indeed!

Matthew tweeted this, and it looks like the new UK coronavirus mutant really is spreading much faster that the “normal” one:

The first isolate of this mutant has now been identified in the U.S.—in a Colorado man in his twenties with no recent travel history.

Yesterday, Republican congressman-elect Luke Letlow, only 41, died from complications of coronavirus. There will be a special election to fill his seat.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 338,767, a huge increase of about 3,600 deaths from yesterday’s figure, equivalent to 2.5 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,799,076, another big increase of about 15,500 over yesterday’s total and representing about 10.8 deaths per minute from Covid-19—more than one every 6 seconds.

Stuff that happened on December 30; pickings are slim!

  • 1066 – Granada massacre: A Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada, crucifies Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacres most of the Jewish population of the city.
  • 1890 – Following the Wounded Knee Massacre, the United States Army and Lakota warriors face off in the Drexel Mission Fight.
  • 1916 – Russian mystic and advisor to the Tsar Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered by a loyalist group led by Prince Felix Yusupov. His frozen, partially-trussed body was discovered in a Moscow river three days later.

The postmortemrumors were that he had been almost impossible to kill, but we don’t really know what happened with a group of nobleman, worried about Rasputin’s influence over the Czar, decided to murder him. Here he is with his wife and daughter Matryona (Maria) in his St. Petersburg apartment in 1911. Matryona later moved to the U.S. where she became a riveter and a circus performer, and died in 1977. 


  • 1922 – The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed.
  • 2006 – Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein is executed.

Notables born on this day include:

  • AD 39 – Titus, Roman emperor (probable; d. 81)
  • 1865 – Rudyard Kipling, Indian-English author and poet, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1936)

Kipling and his family lived in Vermont for several years, where he began The Jungle Books(a great favorite of Matthew). Here’s Kipling in his study at Naulakha, Vermont in 1895:

  • 1910 – Paul Bowles, American composer and author (d. 1999)
  • 1928 – Bo Diddley, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2008)
  • 1931 – Skeeter Davis, American singer-songwriter (d. 2004)
  • 1935 – Sandy Koufax, American baseball player and sportscaster
  • 1945 – Davy Jones, English singer-songwriter and actor (d. 2012)
  • 1946 – Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter and poet
  • 1949 – Jerry Coyne, American biologist and author.

Here’s Coyne in the Karni Mata “Rat Temple” in Deshnoke, India.  In the rear are some of the thousands of resident rats, drinking a sacred offering of cream.

  • 1959 – Tracey Ullman, English-American actress, singer, director, and screenwriter
  • 1965 – Heidi Fleiss, American procurer
  • 1975 – Tiger Woods, American golfer

Those who kicked the bucket on December 30 include:

  • 1916 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic (b. 1869) [see above]
  • 1979 – Richard Rodgers, American playwright and composer (b. 1902)
  • 2006 – Saddam Hussein, Iraqi general and politician, 5th President of Iraq (b. 1937)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, I got special birthday greetings from Hili!

Hili: Is a birthday an adaptation?
A: Probably not. Why do you think it is?
Hili: Gifts help survival. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
In Polish:
Hili: Czy urodziny są adaptacją?
Ja: Chyba nie, dlaczego tak sądzisz?
Hili: Prezenty pomagają przetrwać. Happy Birthday, Jerry!
And I’m told that Szaron wishes me a happy birthday in his “shy and silent way”:

Happily, we have our first Kulka monologue: she got so excited that she finally spoke!

Kulka: A new cardboard box!

Kulka: Nowy karton!

In nearby Wlocawek, Leon also has a few words to say (unlike Mietek, he likes the holidays and parties).

Leon: My place for the New Year’s Eve party
In Polish: Moja miejscówka na sylwestra

From Stephen, who says, “A vivid example of the law of the excluded middle.” I like it, though. 

A cat mugshot from John:

An old cartoon from Sarah:

From Titania:  This is an actual poster from the strike at Bryn Mawr College. It was posted in the Science Building on November 9 of this year.

From Simon, a good XKCD cartoon:

Tweets from Matthew, who points out: “Alfred Russel Wallace falls even further. After spiritualism and human specialness, he became an anti-vaxxer.” The story is a bit more complicated, as doctors were exaggerating the effiacy of vaccination back then.

They need to get these individuals together:

This is sad and sweet at the same time.


Pandemic albatrosses:


Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 29, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Tuesday, the Cruelest day: December 29, 2020: the fifth day of Coynezaa, the fifth day of Christmas, and the fourth day of Kwanzaa (United States). It’s not a food holiday but the end of one: National “Get on the Scales Day”. (Hili is going to the vet soon as she’s gotten too fat.) It’s also National Pepper Pot Day, celebrating a soup that in its authentic version has tripe in it. I’ve tried tripe at least twice, and couldn’t abide it either time. I will not try it again.

Wine of the Day: This lovely Argentinian Torrontés, drunk with chicken, was a bit old for this grape, and I could tell that oxidation was beginning to set in. But it was still a decent tipple, smelling for all the world like candied grapefruit peel. Torrontés can be a great white wine when you find a good specimen, and it’s not at all expensive. Just drink it fairly young.

News of the Day:

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 322-87 to override Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill (note: this is not the pandemic relief bill!). If the Senate also votes to override, which is not certain, it would be the first time Congress had repudiated a veto.  One of his big objections to the bill was its call to change the name of military bases named after Confederate generals.

By now most Americans know that Trump gave in and signed the pandemic relief bill on Sunday. Yesterday the House passed a bill increasing the checks given to many Americans from the $600 specified in the original bill to $2000.  But this won’t happen until the Senate also approves the measure, and it’s not clear when this will happen.

This is a dog-bites-man story from Saudi Arabia, which seems to get much less flak than Israel despite its much more oppressive behavior. Right now the murderous ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who probably gave the go-ahead for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is busy cracking down on protests and anti-theocratic activism. Yesterday a Saudi court sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, 31 years old and a well known women’s rights activist, to six years in prison.  (al-Hathoul was an influential figure in campaigning for, and winning, Saudi women’s right to drive.) The charge was “terrorism-related” according to her family, but prosecutors presented no evidence for terrorism or anything like it. She was prosecuted solely for activism. Given that she’s already been in prison for several years, and that some of the sentence was suspended—prosecutors wanted twenty years!—she could be out in six months.  Her sister alleges that she was tortured after being arrested and jailed in 2018.

Here’s a short video report:


Aunt Becky is out of jail, having served two months for the CollegeGate scandal.

Reader Christopher informs us that not only the Guardian has horoscopes, but also Canada’s Globe and Mail. Click if you want your prognostication for 2001:

But it’s just harmless fun, right?—even though people spend billions of dollars a year consulting these fraudulent people and their pages, and it buttresses faith and superstition.

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 335,141, an increase of about 1,900 above yesterday’s figure, and about 1.3 deaths per minute. The world death toll is 1,783,597, an increase of about 10,100 over yesterday’s total and representing about 7 deaths per minute from Covid-19—one every 9 seconds.

Stuff that happened on December 29 includes:

Here’s the site of Becket’s killing, carried out by four knights after Becket pissed off King Henry. The caption is from Wikipedia:

Sculpture and altar marking the spot of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, Canterbury Cathedral. The sculpture by Giles Blomfeld represents the knights’ four swords (two metal swords with reddened tips and their two shadows).
  • 1845 – In accordance with International Boundary delimitation, the United States annexes the Republic of Texas, following the manifest destiny doctrine. The Republic of Texas, which had been independent since the Texas Revolution of 1836, is thereupon admitted as the 28th U.S. state.
  • 1890 – Wounded Knee Massacre on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 300 Lakota are killed by the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment.

A picture of the dead Native Americans being put in a common grave:

A signed British first edition of this book will run you about $138,700. Here’s one:

  • 1937 – The Irish Free State is replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.
  • 1940 – World War II: In the Second Great Fire of London, the Luftwaffe fire-bombs London, England, killing almost 200 civilians.
  • 1989 – Czech writer, philosopher and dissident Václav Havel is elected the first post-communist President of Czechoslovakia.
  • 2003 – The last known speaker of Akkala Sami dies, rendering the language extinct.

The language, one of the Sámi languages, was spoken in only three villages of the Kola Peninsula in Russia.  Here’s an introduction to the 10 Sámi languages. There’s another that has only two native speakers.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1800 – Charles Goodyear, American chemist and engineer (d. 1860)
  • 1808 – Andrew Johnson, American general and politician, 17th President of the United States (d. 1875)
  • 1809 – William Ewart Gladstone, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1898)
  • 1876 – Pablo Casals, Catalan cellist and conductor (d. 1973)
  • 1936 – Mary Tyler Moore, American actress and producer (d. 2017)

Here’s Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) doing a number of the Dick Van Dyke Show. She was criticized for wearing Capri pants on the show (back then, women in sitcoms wore dresses), but she started a fashion.

  • 1943 – Rick Danko, Canadian singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (d. 1999)
  • 1947 – Ted Danson, American actor and producer

Those who took the Big Nap on December 29 include:

  • 1170 – Thomas Becket, English archbishop and saint (b. 1118)
  • 1894 – Christina Rossetti, English poet and hymn-writer (b. 1830)

Rossetti in her late twenties:

by (George) Herbert Watkins, albumen print, late 1850s
  • 1926 – Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet and author (b. 1875)
  • 1986 – Harold Macmillan, English captain and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1894)
  • 2004 – Julius Axelrod, American biochemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1912)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is again wheedling for noms (like hobbits, many Poles do eat “second breakfasts”):

Hili: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
A: And then?
Hili: And then the second breakfast.
In Polish:
Hili: Śniadanie to najważniejszy posiłek dnia.
Ja: A potem?
Hili: A potem drugie śniadanie.

Little Kulka, hated by Hili, licks her paw:

And in nearby Wloclawek, housemates Leon and Mietek differ about the holidays. Mietek loves them, but Leon clearly doesn’t:

Leon: Such a hassle this holidays is!
In Polish: Zawracanie głowy z tymi świętami.


From Divy. Can you name the television game show that inspired this cartoon?

From Irena:

From Jesus of the Day: it’s all in the jingle bell, I guess.

From Matthew Cobb as well as Barry.  Richard issued the tweet below and got tons of pushback. There were jocular comments but a lot of stuff that, were I to receive it, would seem hurtful. I didn’t understand it; my view is that of Barry, who said this:

I don’t understand why this has been getting so much traction on Twitter or why people are so bothered by it. As this person tweeted: “Are people so churlish not to see that Richard Dawkins was creating a funny image to make a point about how he thinks spiders are under-appreciated?”

That’s true, and if you want to see all the people who made fun of this tweet, go over and have a look. I can attribute it only to the nastiness that Twitter evokes, and to the fact that people have a mysterious animus against Dawkins.

Tweets from Matthew. First, the world’s most beautiful duck:

I used to have an aquarium full of hissers as a grad student, and would horrify visitor by making them hiss:

This is a good person. (Sound up.)

A brilliant new Canadian sport:

Do read this article. It describes a genetic condition in which the fingerprints aren’t formed (they don’t mention toeprints). There are no bad medical side effects, but there are severe social side effects: these poor people can’t use smartphones and can’t get passports or driver’s licenses.

A map of the rabbits of North America. I’m guessing that a lot of the cottontail “species,” which live in geographic isolation from others, don’t really deserve the status of distinct species.

I broke my own rule and criticized this anti-athiest post on Twitter, but the best response is, “This isn’t atheism’s job. It’s just non-belief in gods, for crying out loud!”

Thursday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 17, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on another chilly day: Thursday, December 17, 2020. It’s National Maple Syrup Day, and here’s a tip from one who loves the stuff.  Maple syrup used to be graded A, B, or C, depending on how much flavor they took out of it (C, the darkest kind, was the best). Now it’s ALL grade A, but they have substituted adjectives describing the categories. Always get the “very dark color, strong taste” kind; it’s not only the cheapest, but also the best. (The “dark color, robust taste” is less intense.) This is getting harder to find, but is well worth the search; here’s an example from Amazon.

It’s also Wright Brothers Day, celebrating their first successful flight on December 17, 1903, and Pan American Aviation Day.

Wine of the Day: Forget the chardonnay and pinot grigio: there’s better value for money—and nicer wines— in sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc. This bottle of  2019 Matetic EQ sauvignon blanc, from Chile, is one of the finest specimens I’ve had at any price, and was under $15. Used to wash down a chicken dinner, it was a tad off-dry and had a lot more citrus in the aroma than the classic “grassy” nose customarily described for this grape. A very complex and powerful aroma leaps at you from the glass, urging you to have another. If you can get this, do so; it’s drinking very well.

News of the Day:

It’s been almost six years since the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, and, finally, the trial of the accused has concluded. All fourteen defendants were found guilty of criminal conspiracy or terrorist complicity, though the two shooters were killed shortly after the 2015 attack. The heaviest sentence was given to one defendant who provided weapons to the shooters: 30 years in prison with a minimum of 20 years before the possibility of parole.

And French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19 after showing symptoms. He’ll isolate himself for a week but still plans to work remotely.

And remember, this astronomical conjunction is TONIGHT:

Nabisco has announced the upcoming release of a new flavor of Oreo to celebrate the release of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Chromatica”, the new cookie announced by Gaga herself (below). The NYT describes the diversity of Oreo flavors, whose avowed purpose is not to make a profit but to keep attention on their classic brown-and-white cookie:

Since releasing the Birthday Cake Oreo in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its signature cookie, Oreo has introduced 65 flavors, including, in the last three years alone, Hot Chicken Wing Oreos, Wasabi Oreos, Crispy Tiramisù Oreos and Carrot Cake Oreos. (Certain flavors are only available in specific markets; the Wasabi and Hot Chicken Wing Oreos were released in China.)

Over the years, there have been Blueberry Pie Oreos; Waffle & Syrup Oreos; Jelly Donut Oreos; Mississippi Mud Pie Oreos; Key Lime Pie Oreos; Piña Colada Oreo Thins; Banana Split Oreos; PB&J Oreos; Root Beer Float Oreos; Neapolitan Oreos; Peeps Oreos; and “Mystery Oreos,” which were eventually revealed to be churro flavored.

I’ve tried several of these novelty flavors, including carrot cake (meh), mint (ok), and peanut butter (ok, but not as good as mnt), but the only one I really liked were the green tea Oreos, a package of which was sent by a kind reader in Japan.

Here’s Gaga touting Oreos (oy!):

Has Trump’s insanity been any more evident than now, when he’s continuously tweeting about the “stolen” election? Even Mitch “666” McConnell—and an increasing number of Republicans—admit that Joe Biden won.


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 307,295, a big increase of about 3,400 from yesterday’s figure, with deaths occurred at about 2.4 per minute. The world death toll is 1,657,385, a huge increase of about 13,400 over yesterday’s report—about 9.3 people dying per minute.

Stuff that happened on December 17 includes:

  • 497 BC – The first Saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome.
  • 1790 – The Aztec calendar stone is discovered at El Zócalo, Mexico City.

Made between 1502 and 1521, the stone isn’t really a calendar. The excellent Wikipedia entry says this:

The sculpted motifs that cover the surface of the stone refer to central components of the Mexica cosmogony. The state-sponsored monument linked aspects of Aztec ideology such as the importance of violence and warfare, the cosmic cycles, and the nature of the relationship between gods and man. The Aztec elite used this relationship with the cosmos and the bloodshed often associated with it to maintain control over the population, and the sun stone was a tool in which the ideology was visually manifested.

I saw this remarkable stone in 2012 when I visited the fabulous National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so here’s one from Wikipedia:

  • 1862 – American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

WTF? Ulysses S. Grant expelled the Jews from the South???? Wikipedia says this:

General Order No. 11 was a controversial order issued by Union Major-General Ulysses S. Grant on December 17, 1862, during the Vicksburg Campaign, that took place during the American Civil War. The order expelled all Jews from Grant’s military district, comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Grant issued the order in an effort to reduce Union military corruption, and stop an illicit trade of Southern cotton, which Grant thought was being run “mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders.”

The “running the world” trope never ends.

Here’s a remarkable photo of the first flight (there were three that day): the plane went 120 feet in 12 seconds. Orville is at the controls, while Wilbur runs alongside. The first flight captured on film! And 65 years later the Concorde was flying!

  • 1933 – The first NFL Championship Game is played. The game was at Wrigley Field between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears. The Bears won 23–21.
  • 1938 – Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

Hahn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944, but, since he was a German in custody of the British when the prize was awarded the next year, couldn’t give his lecture. He did so in 1946.  His collaborator, Lise Meitner, a Jew who had fled to Sweden, should have shared that prize.

  • 1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge: Malmedy massacre: American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Joachim Peiper.
  • 1989 – The Simpsons premieres on television with the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire“.

Here’s that first episode:

  • 2014 – The United States and Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations after severing them in 1961.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1778 – Humphry Davy, English chemist and physicist (d. 1829)
  • 1853 – Pierre Paul Émile Roux, French physician and immunologist, co-founded the Pasteur Institute (d. 1933)
  • 1908 – Willard Libby, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1980).

Libby got the Prize for developing radiocarbon dating, and he did so at The University of Chicago. Here he is at the U of C:

  • 1936 – Pope Francis
  • 1987 – Chelsea Manning, American soldier and intelligence analyst

Those who made their final exit on December 17 include:

  • 1830 – Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan general and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (b. 1783)
  • 1833 – Kaspar Hauser, German feral child (b. 1812)

Well, he wasn’t a feral child, and his own story is full of holes. Still, it’s worth reading about Hauser.

Before she wrote books, Sayers worked in advertising, and she wrote this jingle for Guinness:

Why did an Irish stout use a toucan as advertising? You can read the story here.

  • 2008 – Sammy Baugh, American football player and coach (b. 1914)
  • 2011 – Kim Jong-il, North Korean commander and politician, 2nd Supreme Leader of North Korea (b. 1941)
  • 2012 – Daniel Inouye, American captain and politician (b. 1924)
  • 2013 – Janet Rowley, American geneticist and biologist (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Today’s Hili dialogue also needs an explanation from Malgorzata. “Hili sees her reflection in the window. So she talks about illusions. When Andrzej doesn’t want to approve of her very general statement she demands food for herself and for her reflection – if it’s not an illusion, the other cat should get food as well.”

Hili: The world is full of illusions.
A: Don’t exaggerate.
Hili: Fill the bowl for both of us.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat jest pełen iluzji.
Ja: Nie przesadzaj.
Hili: Napełnij miseczki dla nas obu.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon comments on a Polish tradition. Malgorzata explains: “Before Christmas, all proper women are cleaning their houses from top to bottom or the other way around. It’s as if they expected a sanitary inspector instead of family and friends.”

Leon: Oh, all this cleaning!

In Polish: Ach, te porządki!

From Facebook (perhaps from a reader, but I’ve no record):

A meme from Nicole:

From the Internet:


Yes, Titania’s irony is over the top on this tweet, but the renaming of Abraham Lincoln High School is real. In fact, San Francisco is renaming 44 of its 125 public schools, including those bearing the names of Thomas Edison, Herbert Hoover and—Dianne Feinstein, the latter because when she was mayor of S.F. 36 years ago, she allowed the Confederate flag to fly over City Hall. Cancel her IMMEDIATELY!

From Simon, who wonders if this is a real video. So do I!

From Barry: I’ll be damned if this cat isn’t enjoying the bovid tongue bath:

Tweets from Matthew. Look at this mimic! It is likely a Batesian mimic, repelling predators because it resembles a bumble bee, but it could be a Müllerian mimic if the beetle is toxic and the predator has learned to avoid both convergently evolved warning patterns.

I don’t think the analogy is really good here, as an empty bottle is useless, but one can reread books you’ve already read and benefit from it:

Talk about stealing the joy from Christmas!

Beautiful metro stations, with many in the thread. Only one in the US and none in the UK, though!

Sunday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

December 6, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s the end of the week as we know it—formally, though, the beginning of the week. Yes, it’s Sunday, December 6, 2020: National Gazpacho Day. It’s also National Microwave Day and St. Nicholas Day, the day when, in Europe, kids get presents placed in their shoes, stockings, or under their pillows. (By the way, it’s only 19 shopping days until the beginning of Coynezaa, and 24 until its end.)

News of the Day:

Yesterday the Devil went down to Georgia, ostensibly to help elect two Republican Senators from that state. But instead of stumping for them, the President-Eject spent most of his time claiming that he’d won the election and beefing about rigged votes. He will not go gentle into that good (for us) night, and of course we have to pay for his Secret Service protection for the rest of his life. 

The Washington Post has a survey of Republicans’ views about who won the election (h/t: Linda). It’s depressing but not surprising. Two figures tell the tale (note the number of cowardly Republicans!).  The buggers won’t answer!

ArtNet News has an article and a lot of fantastic photos of the recently-discovered series of ancient paintings covering seven miles of rock face in remote areas of the Amazon rain forest. They’re dated to about 12,500 years ago, not long after humans migrated to the area after their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia. Here are a few photos of the paintings, some of which show extinct Ice Age creatures like giant sloths and mastodons.  (h/t Jon):

Matthew went sown to Cambridge yesterday to pick up one of his daughters at Cambridge Uni. He sent two lovely pictures of the town, which I’ve visited only once. The first is of Newnham College, where his daughter goes to school. I haven’t seen a punt before, but it looks like the second photo shows them. Punting on the Cam! I wonder if what applies in Oggsford applies here (my poem):

You have to be a don
To set foot on the lawn.


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 281,202, a big increase of about 2,200 from yesterday’s figure, representing about 1.5 Americans dying per minuteThe world death toll is 1,535,979, a huge increase of about 9,500 over yesterday’s report—about 6.6 deaths per minute, or more than a death every ten seconds.  

Stuff that happened on December 6 includes:

  • 1534 – The city of Quito in Ecuador is founded by Spanish settlers led by Sebastián de Belalcázar.
  • 1790 – The U.S. Congress moves from New York City to Philadelphia.
  • 1884 – The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., is completed.
  • 1897 – London becomes the world’s first city to host licensed taxicabs.

Here’s one of those first London cabs, a Daimler Victoria gas-powered vehicle. It looks like a horse carriage without the horse:

Here’s the Nefertiti bust, now residing in Berlin’s Neues Museum.  The limestone and painted stucco bust, which the Egyptians have been demanding back (and they have a case for its repatriation), was found in a sculptor’s workshop in the ancient city of Akhetaten,. Wikipedia notes, “The bust of Nefertiti is believed to have been crafted about 1345 BC by the sculptor Thutmose. The bust does not have any inscriptions, but can be certainly identified as Nefertiti by the characteristic crown, which she wears in other surviving (and clearly labelled) depictions, for example the “house altar”.

It’s truly a beautiful piece of work.

The devastation:

(From Wikipedia): A view across the devastation of Halifax two days after the explosion, looking toward the Dartmouth side of the harbour. Imo is visible aground on the far side of the harbour. [JAC: The Imo is the ship with which a French ship, laden with explosives, collided, setting off a fire and then the blast.]

Yes he did Yes! A first edition of Ulysses (1000 copies were printed) will run you about $90,000 U.S. Mrkgnao! But that’s cheaper than I thought:

Here’s a video of the melee showing some of the violence and the stabbing of Hunter in slow motion.

And here’s one of the photos that indicated that, at least at one time, liquid water was present on Mars. The Wikipedia caption:

This image taken by Mars Global Surveyor spans a region about 1,500 m (4,921 ft) across, showing gullies on the walls of Newton Basin in Sirenum Terra. Similar channels on Earth are formed by flowing water, but on Mars the temperature is normally too cold and the atmosphere too thin to sustain liquid water. Nevertheless, many scientists hypothesize that liquid groundwater can sometimes surface on Mars, erode gullies and channels, and pool at the bottom before freezing and evaporating.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1896 – Ira Gershwin, American songwriter (d. 1983)
  • 1898 – Alfred Eisenstaedt, German-American photographer and journalist (d. 1995)
  • 1901 – Eliot Porter, American photographer and academic (d. 1990)

Here’s one of Porter’s many wonderful nature photos: “Frostbitten Apples, Tesuque, New Mexico” (1966):

  • 1908 – Baby Face Nelson, American gangster (d. 1934)
  • 1920 – Dave Brubeck, American pianist and composer (d. 2012)
  • 1948 – JoBeth Williams, American actress

Those who became extinct on December 6 include:

  • 1882 – Anthony Trollope, English novelist, essayist, and short story writer (b. 1815)
  • 1889 – Jefferson Davis, American general and politician, President of the Confederate States of America (b. 1808)
  • 1955 – Honus Wagner, American baseball player and manager (b. 1874)
  • 1956 – B. R. Ambedkar, Indian economist and politician, 1st Indian Minister of Justice (b. 1891)
  • 1988 – Roy Orbison, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1936)
  • 2017 – Johnny Hallyday, French singer and actor (b. 1943)

Voilà: Le Johnny, a phenomenon in France, unknown (and rightly so) elsewhere:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is eating like the queen she is:

Hili: There is no other solution.
A: To what problem?
Hili: We must buy more of the sirloin we just ate.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie ma innego rozwiązania.
Ja: W jakiej sprawie?
Hili: Trzeba kupić więcej takiej polędwicy jak ta, którą już zjedliśmy.

In nearby Wloclawek, Elzbieta is reading a story to Leon:

Leon:  Do you think this story will end happily?

In Polish: Myślisz, że ta historia zakończy się szczęśliwie?

From Facebook:

From reader Scott, a Gedankenexperiment:

And a bit of humor from newsman Dan Rather:

From Malgorzata: an anti-racist black woman who’s also anti-anti-Semitic.  Of course she’s also Jewish and Israeli. The panel she refers to was a real one.

From reader Peter, who shows that Jordan Peterson really does have some wacko beliefs, one being that the ancient Chinese didn’t just know about DNA, but also realized that it was a double helix! I may have previously posted his dumb opinion, in the first tweet, on atheists and art.

From reader Barry. Guess the species!

Tweets from Matthew. What a delightful sight—I hope they got some fish!

A beaver who needs air:

Matthew noted that this should read “Jerry and his duck”:

A dog-herding cat? Indeed, as it should be.

Saturday: Hili dialogue

November 28, 2020 • 6:30 am

Saturday is here already: due to the holiday, the week seems to have flown by. It’s November 28, 2020, and National French Toast Day (this is cultural appropriation in both name and object). I love French toast with sausages on the side and real maple syrup; my mom used to make it for me if I was a Good Boy. It’s also Turkey Leftover Day (this will go on for a week), Letter Writing Day (I can’t remember the last time I wrote a real letter, but we should do it more), and Red Planet Day, celebrating the launch of Mariner 4 in 1964, the first spacecraft to fly by Mars and give us close-up views of the planet.

News of the Day: I watched the news and read the NYT on Friday evening (as I write this), and it’s very grim. COVID-19 is making a huge comeback, and if I don’t miss my guess based on holiday travel data, in about two weeks we’ll see a huge spike.

Is there war impending in the Middle East? The top nuclear scientist of Iran, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated yesterday in his car, shot by gunmen along the road he was traveling. He’s long been identified by both the U.S. and Israel as a key figure in Iran’s supposed covert program for developing nuclear weapons, and Iran blamed both countries for the killing.  I doubt that there will be all-out war between Iran and Israel, but it’s unsettling, and I doubt Iran will do nothing in response.

Crikey, yesterday statues were defaced and toppled all over the U.S., and I’m not talking about Confederate statues, but those of respectable people. In Minneapolis, a statue of George Washington was toppled and defaced with the spray-painted words, “Genocidal maniac.” A statue of pioneers was also defaced. The Star-Tribune article mentions other vandalism that happened this week:

In Chicago, somebody tried to pull down a statue of President William McKinley in McKinley Park. The sculpture was also tagged with graffiti and the words “Land Back.” [JAC: This is the slogan for promoting giving land back to Native Americans.]

In Spokane, Wash., a statue of Abraham Lincoln was vandalized with red paint. In Portland, Ore., a monument in the city’s Lone Fir Cemetery, dedicated in 1903 to the veterans of the Civil War, Mexican, Spanish-American, and Indian wars, was tagged with anti-colonialism graffiti and its statue toppled and sprayed with red paint. Three people were arrested after protest-related vandalism damaging storefronts and spraying the words “Land Back” on buildings, Portland police said in a news release.

Here’s the photo of the toppled Washington in Minneapolis; you can read “Genocidal Maniac” on the left.  What genocide did Washington commit? And a “maniac”?

Photo: Shari Gross

I’ll pass along a reading recommendation from reader Ken. I’ve read the Brooks op-ed, which is good, but not yet the other one. The issue is distrust between the elites who determine what is “true”, and the others, who feel disenfranchised and empower themselves by embracing conspiracy theories. Ken’s note:

I don’t know whether you’ve had a chance to read David Brooks opinion piece in yesterday’s NYT “The Rotting of the Republican Mind.”

It cites, and is largely based upon a longer piece from National Affairs by Jonathan Rauch, “The Constitution of Knowledge.” That essay deals in greater depth with the Right’s detachment from reality covered by Brooks’s piece, but, in the latter part, also addresses the problems caused on campus, and in the media, by the radical left. It is well worth the read.
And some good news from the site: Matthew’s new book, The Idea of the Brain, has been named one of the Time’s “Best Philosophy and Ideas Books of the Year 2020” and a Sunday Times Book of the Year. The announcement:


Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 264,724, an increase of about 1,400 from yesterday’s figure.  The world death toll is 1,451,167, a big increase of about 11,600 over yesterday’s report. 

Stuff that happened on November 28 includes this:

  • 1520 – An expedition under the command of Ferdinand Magellan passes through the Strait of Magellan.
  • 1582 – In Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway pay a £40 bond for their marriage licence.

Here’s the marriage record. Shakespeare was 18, Anne Hathaway 26, and pregnant with their first child:

A photo of that first vote from the New Zealand Herald:

Heavily outnumbered by men, women turn out to an Auckland polling booth in November 1893 to vote in their first election after securing the right to vote. The overall turnout of female voters was unexpectedly high. Photo / File

What this means is that this was the election in which Kiwi women were first allowed to vote.

Here’s Duryea’s winning vehicle. Average speed: 5.4 miles per hour (a marathon runner does way better than that!):

  • 1919 – Lady Astor is elected as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. (Countess Markievicz, the first to be elected, refused to sit.)

Lady Astor served until 1945; here’s a photo:

  • 1925 – The Grand Ole Opry begins broadcasting in Nashville, Tennessee, as the WSM Barn Dance.
  • 1941 – In Germany, Mufti of Palestine met Adolf Hitler in November-28-1941, whose agents had to convince themselves he is not “pure arab” in blood.  The nazi leader still refused to shake his hand or even drink coffee with him for considering Arabs inferior. They agreed on cooperation against Jews.

And here’s a photo of that meeting:

  • 1958 – First successful flight of SM-65 Atlas; the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), developed by the United States and the first member of the Atlas rocket family.
  • 1967 – The first pulsar (PSR B1919+21, in the constellation of Vulpecula) is discovered by two astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish.
  • 1972 – Last executions in Paris: Claude Buffet and Roger Bontems are guillotined at La Santé Prison.
  • 1980 – Iran–Iraq War: Operation Morvarid: The bulk of the Iraqi Navy is destroyed by the Iranian Navy in the Persian Gulf. (Commemorated in Iran as Navy Day.)
  • 1990 – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigns as leader of the Conservative Party and, therefore, as Prime Minister. She is succeeded in both positions by John Major.

Notables born on this day include:

Like many artists, Blake couldn’t draw cats. Here’s his “Tyger”:

  • 1820 – Friedrich Engels, German-English philosopher, economist, and journalist (d. 1895)
  • 1904 – Nancy Mitford, English journalist and author (d. 1973)
  • 1908 – Claude Lévi-Strauss, Belgian-French anthropologist and ethnologist (d. 2009)
  • 1929 – Berry Gordy, Jr., American songwriter and producer, founded Motown Records

Gordy, now 91, is still with us, and is responsible for much of the great soul music of the Sixties and Seventies.

  • 1962 – Jon Stewart, American comedian, actor, and television host
  • 1987 – Karen Gillan, Scottish actress

Those whose lives were obliterated on November 28 include:

Part of Bernini’s interior for St. Peter’s Basilica:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s baldachin, interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Ivor Clarke/Alamy
  • 1859 – Washington Irving, American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian (b. 1783)
  • 1939 – James Naismith, Canadian-American physician and educator, created basketball (b. 1861)
  • 1954 – Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1901)
  • 1960 – Richard Wright, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet (b. 1908)
  • 1976 – Rosalind Russell, American actress and singer (b. 1907)
  • 1994 – Jeffrey Dahmer, American serial killer (b. 1960)
  • 1994 – Jerry Rubin, American businessman and activist (b. 1938)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili finds a reason to go on living:

Hili: In spite of everything.
A: In spite of what?
Hili: In spite of everything I’m curious what will happen next.
In Polish:
Hili: Mimo wszystko.
Ja: Co mimo wszystko?
Hili: Mimo wszystko jestem ciekawa co będzie dalej.

And in nearby Wloclawek, Mietek and Leon are on the prowl together (note that Mietek is now full grown!):

Leon:  Let’s go back, there is nothing for us here.

In Polish: Wracamy, nic tu po nas.

A meme from Divy:

An great early New Year’s meme from Bruce. Better early than never!

Posted by Seth Andrews on Facebook:

Screenshot of a tweet sent in by Smith Powell. This is a good one:

From reader Barry, two tweets showing Jordan Peterson. The first I don’t think shows that he’s a “grifter”, he simply hadn’t thought through the issue when he pronounced judgment.  The second is a bit reprehensible: a demonstration of confirmation bias by Peterson, who’s conversing with Matt Dillahunty.

Tweets from Matthew. This first one is indeed a stunning time-lapse photos. It also shows that the birds leave the tree in horizontal flight:

Here’s an Amazon comment on Matthew’s new book; the loon is apparently identified in the comment thread:

It wasn’t the cat!

Imagine what the staff had faced in the past!

Matthew channels Rudyard Kipling. Read about mosasaurs here.


Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

November 10, 2020 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Tuesday: the Cruelest Day, November 10, 2020. It’s been one week since they slice me like a lox, but all is well. It’s National Vanilla Cupcake Day, which couldn’t be more lame, as well as Sesame Street Day, Area Code Day, World Science Day for Peace and Development, and World Keratoconus Day. 

News of the Day: First, a sign of the times from reader Charles. And “everything” includes, of course, Trump.

It’s no surprise, of course, that Trump hasn’t conceded the election, and he may never do so. It’s a bit more surprising that a lot of Republicans, won’t, either.  Mitch “666” McConnell is also backing Trump’s refusal to concede. The NYT attributes the truculence to Republicans’ unwillingness to alienate Trump supporters given the two crucial Senate seats being contested in Georgia.

According to the BBC, militant Islamists beheaded more than 50 villagers in Mozambique, and then chopped up the bodies.

Amazingly in this political climate, a referendum requiring sex education in Washington state’s public school passed by a substantial margin, with over 60% of the state’s voters approving it. The Seattle Times‘s columnist Danny Westneat attributes this to the rapidly increasing secularism in the state:

In surveys of state voters released for the 2020 election, the group answering “none” to the question of “what is your religion?” easily forms the largest religious group in this state. The “Nones” made up 34% of the state electorate this year, according to the Votercast survey of 110,000 voters by AP and other news organizations in all 50 states (including about 2,400 here).

That’s far higher than evangelical and born-again Christians at 19%, or Catholics at 14%. It’s quite different here than nationally, where both Protestants and Catholics outnumber the Nones.

Also 45% of Washington voters answered “never” when asked how often they go to church.

The campaign to repeal the sex ed law was energized by churches and anti-abortion groups, and backed by the Washington State Catholic Conference.

Too bad, Catholics and evangelicals: your kids will learn the truth about sex, not that it will send them to hell. (I predict increased enrollment in religious schools.) h/t  Kleinknecht

And here’s The Big Question posed by David Pakman (h/t Woody):

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 238,776, an increase of about 740 from yesterday’s figure. The world death toll is 1,270,573, a big increase of about 7,400 over yesterday’s report.

And yesterday the U.S. passed the total of ten million cases of coronavirus. 42 out of 50 states have an increasing infection rate.  But Uncle Joe is on the case, having appointed a crack pandemic team of 13 people. What with that and the news that a highly effective vaccine may be in the offing from Pfizer, things are looking up.

Stuff that happened on November 10 includes:

  • 1775 – The United States Marine Corps is founded at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia by Samuel Nicholas.
  • 1793 – A Goddess of Reason is proclaimed by the French Convention at the suggestion of Pierre Gaspard Chaumette.
  • 1865 – Major Henry Wirz, the superintendent of a prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia, is hanged, becoming one of only three American Civil War soldiers executed for war crimes.
  • 1871 – Henry Morton Stanley locates missing explorer and missionary, Dr David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, famously greeting him with the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”.

Here’s Stanley a year later:

  • 1918 – The Western Union Cable Office in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, receives a top-secret coded message from Europe (that would be sent to Ottawa and Washington, D.C.) that said on November 11, 1918, all fighting would cease on land, sea and in the air.

Tomorrow is Armistice Day (11/11 and the hostilities ended at 11 a.m. Paris time)

  • 1951 – With the rollout of the North American Numbering Plan, direct-dial coast-to-coast telephone service begins in the United States.
  • 1969 – National Educational Television (the predecessor to the Public Broadcasting Service) in the United States debuts Sesame Street.
  • 1975 – The 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.

That wreck, of course, was turned into an eponymous song by Gordon 1976, a #1 hit in Canada and #2 in the U.S. Here’s the ship and the song, with the song showing videos of the ship before and after it was wrecked:


  • 1975 – Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the United Nations General Assembly passes Resolution 3379, determining that Zionism is a form of racism
  • 1983 – Bill Gates introduces Windows 1.0.
  • 1989 – Germans begin to tear down the Berlin Wall.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1483 – Martin Luther, German monk and priest, leader of the Protestant Reformation (d. 1546)
  • 1880 – Jacob Epstein, American-English sculptor (d. 1959)
  • 1925 – Richard Burton, Welsh actor and singer (d. 1984)

Here’s a photo I took of Burton’s grave when I visited Céligny, Switzerland in 2007. It’s been adorned with a memento from an admirer. Burton drank and smoked himself to death at the age of 58: he was said to have smoked 3-5 packs of cigarettes per day and, at his peak, consumed 3-4 bottles of hard liquor per day.

  • 1949 – Ann Reinking, American actress, dancer, and choreographer
  • 1960 – Neil Gaiman, English author, illustrator, and screenwriter

Those who bought it on November 10 include:

Rimbaud died at 37; here he is at 17. Three years later, he stopped writing completely.

  • 1982 – Leonid Brezhnev, Ukrainian-Russian general and politician, 4th Head of State of the Soviet Union (b. 1906)
  • 2001 – Ken Kesey, American novelist, essayist, and poet (b. 1935)
  • 2007 – Norman Mailer, American novelist and essayist (b. 1923)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s trying to get Kulka in trouble:

A: Hili, where is my blue pen?
Hili: Kulka took it.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, gdzie jest mój niebieski długopis?
Hili: Kulka go zabrała.

In nearby Wloclawek, Leon is jealous of Mietek’s first birthday:

Leon: What did Mietek get for his birthday?
In Polish: Co Mietek dostał na urodziny?

And here is little Kulka, who now looks exactly like Hili!

A meme from Nicole:

From Merilee:

Are New Yorker cartoons getting less funny? In the last few issues I’ve had precious few chuckles. Here’s one that I found totally lame!

Titania joins the American call for unity:

From cesar: Harvard Medical School’s Continuing Education site goes completely woke, unable to write the word “woman”. It’s now “pregnant and birthing people”.

Tweets from Matthew. I hope you know what this first one is about:

Two notables, one opinion:

Look at this gorgeous snail!

“Whaat? What is happening? Trace, we’ve called it!”

They gave them a home—where the buffalo roam. Lovely video of bison getting full freedom.

Notice how polite the donkeys are! Sound up, please.

Friday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

October 23, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning: it’s the end of another “work” week on Friday, October 23, 2020: National Boston Cream Pie Day. This isn’t really a pie, but a delicious cake filled with cream and frosted with chocolate which looks like this:

It is the Official Dessert of Massachusetts. It’s also National Canning Day, the Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day (see here), and National Mole Day (no, not the Mexican spice/sauce nor the animal, but the chemistry mole. “It takes place on October 23 each year, between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m., to commemorate Avogadro’s number, which is roughly equivalent to (6.022 x 1023).”

It’s also the date that, according to Bishop Ussher, God created the world (see below).

News of the Day:  If there was a winner of the debate last night, it appears to be moderator Kristen Welker of NBC, though Trump tried to tear her down even before the debate. I watched about 40 minutes of the debate before I got bored, and Welker did a very good job. Although Trump was on a leash, I wish Biden had called him on his palpably false statements. And Trump tried to tell us that the pandemic is abating?

As for who “won” the debate, well, there’s no objective answer, and the real “winning” will take place in two weeks. The New York Times has a survey of pundits about the “winner,” and it looks to be abvout 50:50, which means Biden came out on top, since Trump has a 10-point deficit to overcome in the polls. (See a similar survey at FiveThirtyEight.)

Here’s the latest polling results from FiveThirtyEight. Biden retains his ten-point lead, though the Senate is much more of a tossup:

Biden’s chance of winning has slowly increased:

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-0 to advance Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate. Why the unanimous vote? Because no Democrats registered as “present”  to vote. She will be confirmed by Monday. If you want to see what we’re in store for, at least with respect to reproductive rights, read Linda Greenhouse’s depressing op-ed column in the New York Times. Thanks, Mitch!

Trump posted a clip of the aborted “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl on Facebook. You can watch it at the link below! (I haven’t yet as of Thursday evening. ) As the NYT reports,

President Trump made good Thursday on a threat to post unfiltered footage from a “60 Minutes” interview he taped earlier this week with the anchor Lesley Stahl — an interview that Mr. Trump abruptly cut short, complaining that Ms. Stahl was “negative” and biased.

In posting the 38-minute clip on Facebook, Mr. Trump urged viewers to “look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.” But the footage shows Ms. Stahl, a “60 Minutes” correspondent since 1991, calmly and firmly asking the president about the coronavirus and other topics as Mr. Trump grows increasingly irritated.

According to Newsweek, an autism support organization, SafeMinds, donated $250,000 to fund a study that, they hoped, would show a link between vaccines and autism. Sadly for the zealots, but happy for us, the research results, just published in PNAS, showed no connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism-like brain or behavioral changes in rhesus macaques. I find it sad that parents of autistic children are so invested in showing that the syndrome comes from vaccines, and can only guess that somehow they think it absolves them as a source of genetic or environmental factors causing autism. (h/t: Charles)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 222,023, a decrease  from yesterday’s figure of 222,157, which isn’t possible unless some people came back to life. There must be a reporting error here. The world death toll is 1,143,709, a big increase of about 6,500 over yesterday’s report.   

Stuff that happened on October 23 includes:

Ussher predicted that the creation began “at the entrance of night,” or around 6 p.m., but on October 22. Wikipedia, again, has the date wrong. We await Greg’s article, “What’s wrong with Wikipedia?”, now in the works for a decade, and attaining the status to Casaubon’s Key to All Mythologies. 

  • 1707 – The First Parliament of Great Britain convenes.
  • 1850 – The first National Women’s Rights Convention begins in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • 1906 – Alberto Santos-Dumont flies an airplane in the first heavier-than-air flight in Europe.

Here’s the first flight of that rather cumbersome plane, the 14-bis flying in Paris. It went 60 meters.

  • 1973 – Watergate scandal: President Nixon agrees to turn over subpoenaed audio tapes of his Oval Office conversations.
  • 1991 – Signing of the Paris Peace Accords which ends the Cambodian–Vietnamese War.
  • 1995 – Yolanda Saldívar is found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of popular Latin singer Selena.

Saldívar will be eligible for parole in 2025 after serving thirty years.

  • 2002 – Chechen terrorists seize the House of Culture theater in Moscow and take approximately 700 theater-goers hostage.

All 40 of the terrorists were killed, but so were about 200 hostages, many from a toxic gas (unidentified) pumped into the theater.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1491 (estimated) – Ignatius of Loyola, Catholic priest (d. 1556)
  • 1844 – Sarah Bernhardt, French actress (d. 1923)

Here’s the Divine Sarah at 20:

  • 1905 – Felix Bloch, Swiss physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1983)
  • 1925 – Johnny Carson, American comedian and talk show host (d. 2005)
  • 1940 – Pelé, Brazilian footballer and actor

Pele is eighty today; here are ten of his greatest goals:

  • 1959 – Weird Al” Yankovic, American singer-songwriter, comedian, and actor

Those who met their Just Reward on October 23 include:

  • 1872 – Théophile Gautier, French journalist, author, and poet (b. 1811)
  • 1939 – Zane Grey, American dentist and author (b. 1872)
  • 1950 – Al Jolson, Lithuanian-American actor and singer (b. 1886)
  • 1978 – Maybelle Carter, American singer and autoharp player (Carter Family) (b. 1909)
  • 1983 – Jessica Savitch, American journalist (b. 1947)
  • 2016 – Jack Chick, American cartoonist and publisher (b. 1924)

There are few pictures of Jack Chick, whose religious comics you’ve almost certainly seen. Below is a photo and one of his many anti-evolution strips:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sitting on the box in which Malgorzata keeps the important bills and documents, but something is missing. . .

Hili:  All the bills are in this box except the most important ones.
A:  Which are those?
Hili: The bills for cat treats.
In Polish:
Ja: O czym myślisz?
Hili: Że w tej skrzyni są wszystkie rachunki oprócz tych najważniejszych.
Ja: Których?
Hili: Za kocie przysmaki.
Below is a new Leon monologue (Malgorzata added, “Just don’t ask who Eryk is. I have no idea. It can be a friend of Elżbieta or a friend’s cat.)
Leon: Apparently Eryk asked about me so here I am. October is not the right season for walks.
In Polish: Podobno Eryk się o mnie pytał, no to jestem. Październik to nie jest odpowiednia pora na spacery.

Look! Two pictures of Kulka as a bipedal mammal! This is because, looking out the window, she saw a d*g for the very first time.

From The Cat House on the Kings:

From Stash Krod:

Via Diana MacPherson:

I didn’t understand Titania’s tweet until I saw the first reply:

From Luana via Peter Boghossian quoting writer Coleman Hughes.  On Letter, Hughes challenges Ibram X. Kendi to a conversation/debate. I’d like to see it!

From Simon, who says, “Plus ça change. . .”

From Barry. An adorable short video; I only wish there was sound as I can imagine the baby trying to make a noise:

Tweets from Matthew. Oy! I hope this shows scavenging rather than killing:


Great crypsis: Planthoppers mimicking thorns on a plant that doesn’t have thorns. This wouldn’t work as camoflage unless they aggregated or were social:

Matthew spotted 11 of the 12 (the answer is in the thread); I didn’t even try; I’m miserable at these things:


Tuesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

October 20, 2020 • 6:30 am

Good morning on the Cruelest Day: Tuesday, October 20, 2020: National Brandied Fruit Day and National Eggo Day. (If you don’t know what an Eggo is, go here). It’s also International Chefs Day, the Birth of the Bab (see below), and World Statistics Day. 

Here’s a statistic to celebrate the day: the average height of the American male is 5 feet, 9.3 inches (176 cm), and of American women is 5 feet, 3.7 inches (160 cm). That makes me, at about 5’8″,  a shorty.

News of the Day:  This is a pretty funny article about words that were censored (by software filters) in the discussion sessions of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology online meetings. Those words include “bone,” for chrissake (it’s also American slang for “to copulate”), but also “penetrate,” “stream,” “knob”, “crack”, and “sex”. Hard to have a fossil meeting without some of those words!



Trump rarely surprises me any more with his rudeness and mendacity, but his latest trashing of Anthony Fauci is beyond the pale. He could only wish he had the integrity and self-control of Fauci.  From CNN:

Referring to Fauci and other health officials as “idiots,” Trump declared the country ready to move on from the health disaster, even as cases are again spiking and medical experts warn the worst may be yet to come.

Baselessly claiming that if Fauci was in charge more than half a million people would be dead in the United States, Trump portrayed the recommendations offered by his own administration to mitigate spread of the disease as a burdensome annoyance.

“People are tired of Covid. have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had, and we have Covid,” Trump said, phoning into a call with campaign staff from his namesake hotel in Las Vegas, where he spent two nights amid a western campaign swing. “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.”

“Fauci is a nice guy,” Trump went on. “He’s been here for 500 years.”

Let’s hope Trump is only here for three more months.

BTW, Microphones will be muted during part of Thursday’s Presidential debate. During each candidate’s two-minute initial response to a question, the other candidate’s mike (not “mic”) will be turned off. Do you think that will stop Trump from bloviating? I don’t think so—he’ll just yell across the stage. Trump says he consider the muting “very unfair.”

And OMG—Jeffrey Toobin? Oy gewalt! Read about it here.

How many ideological missteps can you find with this statue of Medusa holding the head of Perseus, just installed in New York as a tribute to the #MeTooMovement (yes, it was reversed in mythology, with Medusa decapitated). But the Offense Brigade is out in force after this one. Read about it at the Washington Post.

Illinois, long one of the lowest states for Covid-19 infections, is now joining nearly every other state in experiencing the dreaded “second wave” (remember when Trump said the virus would disappear in the summer)? Here are the latest Illinois data from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 220,058, an increase of about 500 over yesterday. The world death toll is 1,123,472, an increase of about 4,600 over yesterday’s report.   

Stuff that happened on October 20 includes:

Here’s what we got from the French (area in white), at $15 million, or about 3¢ per acre:

  • 1935 – The Long March, a mammoth retreat undertaken by the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party a year prior, ends.

Here’s a map of the Long March (caption from Wikipedia), which lasted almost exactly a year:

Light red areas show Communist enclaves. Areas marked by a blue “X” were overrun by Kuomintang forces during the Fourth Encirclement Campaign, forcing the Fourth Red Army (north) and the Second Red Army (south) to retreat to more western enclaves (dotted lines). The dashed line is the route of the First Red Army from Jiangxi. The withdrawal of all three Red Armies ends in the northeast enclave of Shaanxi.
  • 1941 – World War II: Thousands of civilians in German-occupied Serbia are murdered in the Kragujevac massacre.
  • 1944 – American general Douglas MacArthur fulfills his promise to return to the Philippines when he comes ashore during the Battle of Leyte.
  • 1947 – The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of the Hollywood film industry, resulting in a blacklist that prevents some from working in the industry for years.
  • 1951 – The “Johnny Bright incident” occurs during a football game between the Drake Bulldogs and Oklahoma A&M Aggies.

Bright was a nationally-ranked player for Drake, and was black. The Oklahoma players targeted him because of his race, and he was knocked unconscious three times in the first seven minutes of the game by defensive tackle Wilbanks Smith, the last hit breaking his jaw. Bright stayed in the game for a while as halfback/quarterback, and even completed a touchdown pass.

But there was a photograph showing a deliberate and grossly illegal hit; in fact, it qualifies as assault:

A six photograph sequence of the incident captured by Des Moines Register cameramen John Robinson and Don Ultang clearly showed Smith’s jaw-breaking blow was thrown well after Bright had handed the ball off to Drake fullback Gene Macomber, and was well behind the play. Robinson and Ultang had set up a camera focusing on Bright before the game after the rumors of him being targeted became too loud to ignore. They rushed the film to Des Moines as soon as Bright was knocked out of the game. Ultang said years later that they were very lucky that the incident took place when it did; they had only planned to stay through the first quarter so they could have enough time to develop the pictures before the deadline. The sequence won Robinson and Ultang the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Photography, and eventually made it into the November 5, 1951, issue of Life.

Oklahoma refused to admit wrongdoing, and Oklahoma didn’t apologize until 2005! Smith never admitted wrongdoing, and Bright went on to a stellar career in the Canadian Football League.

Look at that hit in the last photo!

(From Wikipedia): The Pulitzer Prize-winning sequence of photos showing the first hit on Johnny Bright by Wilbanks Smith.
  • 1973 – “Saturday Night Massacre“: United States President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who is finally fired by Robert Bork.

I remember this well, and once encountered Elliot Richardson on the subway in Harvard Square some years later (a handsome and public figure, he was instantly recognizable). I thanked him for his refusal to fire Cox.

  • 1973 – The Sydney Opera House is opened by Elizabeth II after 14 years of construction.

Notables born on this day include:

In 1831, 28 years before the publication of Darwin’s Origin, Matthew published a book about wood and shipbuilding: On Naval Timber and ArboricultureIn the Appendix’s last 28 pages, Matthew proposed a theory very similar to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. You can read some excerpts here and at Wikipedia, and learn why Matthew doesn’t really get credit for natural selection. Here’s a picture of the book from Wikipedia:

It’s another day for the birth of artists and musicians:

  • 1819 – Báb, Iranian religious leader, founded Bábism (d. 1850)
  • 1854 – Arthur Rimbaud, French soldier and poet (d. 1891)
  • 1859 – John Dewey, American psychologist and philosopher (d. 1952)
  • 1874 – Charles Ives, American composer (d. 1954)
  • 1885 – Jelly Roll Morton, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (Red Hot Peppers and New Orleans Rhythm Kings) (d. 1941)
  • 1925 – Art Buchwald, American soldier and journalist (d. 2007)
  • 1931 – Mickey Mantle, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 1995)
  • 1950 – Tom Petty, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2017)
  • 1971 – Snoop Dogg, American rapper, producer, and actor

Snoop registered to vote for the first time this year—at age 48. Here he shows us how to do it online. (His real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus.)

Those who cashed in their chips on October 20 include:

  • 1890 – Richard Francis Burton, English-Italian geographer and explorer (b. 1821)
  • 1926 – Eugene V. Debs, American union leader and politician (b. 1855)
  • 1936 – Anne Sullivan, American educator (b. 1866)
  • 1964 – Herbert Hoover, American engineer and politician, 31st President of the United States (b. 1874)
  • 1983 – Merle Travis, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1917)
  • 1984 – Paul Dirac, English-American physicist and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)

A four-minute bio of the great but eccentric Dirac:

Here’s Lancaster in a very famous scene: the “beach scene” in From Here to Eternityplaying sergeant Milt Warden, who has an affair with his commanding officer’s wife, played by Deborah Kerr. This scene was considered extremely erotic for the time.  The movie is well worth seeing: it also stars Frank Sinatra (in a role that was a comeback for him), Montgomery Clift, and Ernest Borgnine.

  • 2011 – Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan colonel and politician, Prime Minister of Libya (b. 1942)
  • 2012 – Paul Kurtz, American philosopher and academic (b. 1925)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is importuning Andrzej, but for what?

A: Is there something you want?
Hili: I have to think about it.
In Polish:
Ja: Czy jest coś, czego chcesz?
Hili: Muszę się zastanowić.

Here’s Kulka, who no longer qualifies as a “kitten”

Here’s an oldie from 2014 that I don’t think I’ve posted before. Leon went hiking, and has a monologue:

Leon: Learning the world is tiresome.

In Polish: Męczące jest to poznawanie świata.

A good question from Facebook:

From Nicole: I may have posted this before, but if so, here it is again:

From Jesus of the Day:

I tweeted! Many, many readers sent me links to articles about this Nazca-line cat, making it, I think, the story sent to me most often in the history of this website.

Speaking of social-media offense, Titania expresses the feelings of many:

From Simon, a tweet from the famous Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, once spoken of as a possible Supreme Court nominee (as you see, he’s a liberal):

And the rest of the tweets from the estimable Dr. Cobb. This way of sleeping seems very maladaptive for avoiding predation, but I suppose they have to rest sometime.

This event partly armed the warheads, but, thank Ceiling Cat, nothing bad happened.

An amazing roadcut showing the distortion of sediments by colliding tectonic plates:

Try this with your cat and get back to me:

What’s the technical name for a huge mess of geckos?


Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

September 12, 2020 • 6:30 am

We’re into the weekend, and fall is coming on strong, as: it’s Saturday, September 12, 2020, National Chocolate Milkshake Day. It’s also International Drive Your Studebaker Day (does anybody have one?), National Iguana Awareness Day, Aunt’s Day (which aunt?), Video Games Day, and National Day of Encouragement, whatever that’s for.

News of the Day: Don’t forget to vote for Clarence to pay off his vet bills. Vote here; it’s free. He’s in first place, and we must keep him there. There are 5.5 days left, and you can vote for free once every 24 hours. Do it for Ceiling Cat!

Clarence and staff.

Regular news: After the UAE voted to normalize relations with Israel, Bahrain just announced it is doing the same. I hope this is the beginning of a trend.

Reader Ken sent a link to a New Hampshire Union-Leader article reporting that a woman in Exeter voted topless:

The unidentified woman cast the bare-breasted ballot after showing up at the Talbot Gymnasium polls wearing a shirt with images of President Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain and the legend “McCain Hero/Trump Zero.”

Town Moderator Paul Scafidi told the woman, who appeared to be about 60, that she would have to remove the shirt or cover it up because of laws against electioneering inside polling places — though Trump’s name wasn’t on Tuesday’s state primary ballot.

When the woman, who was wearing a mask, pointed out someone wearing a shirt with an American flag, she was told that was different.

“She said, ‘You want me to take my shirt off? That’s what you want?’” Scafidi recalled.

He told the woman it was her choice, and before he could say anything more, the shirt was gone. She was not wearing a bra.

She was not arrested.

The Washington Post reports that a group of students at Miami University of Ohio were having an unmasked beer-drinking gathering on the front porch of a house. A police check revealed that several had Covid-19, but they apparently didn’t care. Six students were cited (a civil violation) and fined $500 each. But is that enough to deter others? As somebody said, a university rule that depends on 100% voluntary compliance will never be properly obeyed. I’m worried about my own school opening up in a couple of weeks (part virtual learning, part “real” learning).

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 192,853, an increase of about 1,200 deaths over yesterday’s report. We’ll soon hit the dreaded 200,000 mark that nobody thought possible. The world death toll now stands at 913,780, an increase of about 3,700 deaths from yesterday. And here we’re approaching a million deaths. 

Stuff that happened on September 12 includes:

  • 1609 – Henry Hudson begins his exploration of the Hudson River while aboard the Halve Maen.
  • 1846 – Elizabeth Barrett elopes with Robert Browning.
  • 1910 – Premiere performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Munich (with a chorus of 852 singers and an orchestra of 171 players. Mahler’s rehearsal assistant conductor was Bruno Walter).
  • 1933 – Leó Szilárd, waiting for a red light on Southampton Row in Bloomsbury, conceives the idea of the nuclear chain reaction.

Here’s Szilard (right) at the University of Chicago, where the first self-sustaining fission reaction took place in the gym, Stagg Field. That gym is no more, but there’s a Henry Moore sculpture on the site:

(From Wikipedia): Szilard and Norman Hilberry at the site of CP-1, at the University of Chicago, some years after the war. It was demolished in 1957.

Now this is a weird one. Three boys saw a UFO and a weird being that looked like this:


After investigating the case in 2000, Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry concluded that the bright light in the sky reported by the witnesses on September 12 was most likely a meteor, that the pulsating red light was likely an aircraft navigation/hazard beacon, and that the creature described by witnesses closely resembled an owl. Nickell suggested that witnesses’ perceptions were distorted by their heightened state of anxiety. Nickell’s conclusions are shared by a number of other investigators, including those of the Air Force.

The night of the September 12 sighting, a meteor had been observed across three states—Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. According to Nickell, three flashing red aircraft beacons were also visible from the area of the sightings, which could account for descriptions of a pulsating red light and red tint on the face of the supposed monster.

How could they mistake an owl for a being twice as big as a human?

A photo of the wedding:

  • 1959 – Bonanza premieres, the first regularly scheduled TV program presented in color.

Hoss: Pass the potatoes, Little Joe.

Here’s Kennedy’s famous statement, and of course we were on the Moon in less than a decade. That’s remarkable!

  • 1984 – Dwight Gooden sets the baseball record for strikeouts in a season by a rookie with 276, previously set by Herb Score with 246 in 1954. Gooden’s 276 strikeouts that season, pitched in 218 innings, set the current record.
  • 2011 – The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City opens to the public.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1852 – H. H. Asquith, English lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1928)
  • 1880 – H. L. Mencken, American journalist and critic (d. 1956)

The great man:

  • 1888 – Maurice Chevalier, French actor, singer, and dancer (d. 1972)
  • 1898 – Ben Shahn, Lithuanian-American painter and photographer (d. 1969)
  • 1913 – Jesse Owens, American sprinter and long jumper (d. 1980)
  • 1931 – George Jones, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2013)
  • 1944 – Barry White, American singer-songwriter (d. 2003)

Here’s Barry White in a famous scene from the t.v. show Ally McBeal, in which a big fan of Barry gets a special birthday present:

  • 1981 – Jennifer Hudson, American singer and actress
  • 1986 – Emmy Rossum, American singer and actress

Those who began pining for the fjords on September 12 include:

  • 1660 – Jacob Cats, Dutch poet, jurist, and politician (b. 1577)
  • 1977 – Steve Biko, South African activist (b. 1946)
  • 1992 – Anthony Perkins, American actor, singer, and director (b. 1932)
  • 1993 – Raymond Burr, Canadian-American actor and director (b. 1917)
  • 2003 – Johnny Cash, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1932)
  • 2008 – David Foster Wallace, American novelist, short story writer, and essayist (b. 1962)
  • 2009 – Norman Borlaug, American agronomist and humanitarian, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1914)
  • 2014 – Ian Paisley, Northern Irish evangelical pastor (Free Presbyterian Church) and politician, 2nd First Minister of Northern Ireland (b. 1926)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili prepares to edit Listy:

Hili: We have to mobilize our whole strength to work.
A: How?
Hili: First, it’s best to take a nap.
In Polish:
Hili: Musimy zmobilizować wszystkie siły do pracy.
Ja: Jak?
Hili: Najlepiej najpierw się przespać.

And nearby, at the site of their future home, Leon and Mietek are juiced about the weekend:

Leon: The weekend has started, which means there are plenty of things to do.

In Polish: Weekend się zaczął,czyli mnóstwo spraw do załatwienia.

Two photos of kitten Kulka As Malgorzata said, “In a few months we will have trouble telling Kulka and Hili apart.”

From reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe:

From Facebook:

From Jesus of the Day:

All tweets today are from Matthew, who fortunately is not on one of his sporadic holidays from Twitter.

First, chicken training. I’m not sure if this chicken is encountering the situation for the first time here, but even if not, it’s still a good example of “active learning”:

Boris Johnson has threatened to field “covid marshals” to enforce quarantine rules. This swan would be a great one, for it knows how a mask should be worn.

I yearn to be back on my Rollerblades again, but I can’t find ones with a stiff boot rather than a soft shoe. It was great exercise, and, importantly, fun exercise. But I never got to do this:

Okay, some enterprising reader needs to find out more about this:

This is a hydrozoan:

Back to politics and the banality of evil:

Matthew, knowing me, sent me this tweet with the note, “This will trigger you terribly BUT IT ALL TURNS OUT OK.”

As Johnny Carson used to say, “I did not know that.”


Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

September 2, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s our first Hump Day in September: Wednesday, September 2, 2020, and National “Grits for Breakfast” Day. Why the scare quotes, though? Don’t be scared of grits!

You either love grits with breakfast or you hate them, and I’m in the first class—the right class. You can’t beat a good Southern breakfast of grits, fried eggs, country ham with red-eye gravy, strong coffee, and biscuits. Yes, there must be biscuits, and you mush up your grits with the runny egg and gravy. Here’s a photo of breakfast at the best place to get it in the South, the Loveless Cafe outside of Nashville. There’s one woman there whose only job is to make biscuits, for which the place is justly famous. In fact, everything is just a side dish to the main course of biscuits. Here are two photos I took when, at my request, my hosts at Vanderbilt took me there for breakfast when I was lecturing there in 2012:

Sure good eatin’, I gare-un-tee!

The first course of biscuits! Homemade preserves, cherry, blackberry, and peach, comes alongside. As the biscuits arrive first, you have to be careful not too eat too many of them lest you have no appetite for the platter above:

It’s also World Coconut Day, National Blueberry Popsicle Day, and the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day (or “VJ Day”), when World War II finally ended for the U.S. when the surrender documents were signed on the USS Missouri.

News of the Day: There’s a fair bit of news about Donald Trump’s mysterious visit to Walter Reed Hospital last November. It was reported by the White House as “the first part of a physical,” but the second part wasn’t completed, and there’s also a report that Pence was asked to stand by in case Trump had to be anesthetized for “a procedure.” That didn’t happen, apparently, but the state of the President’s health seems murky. Matthew says that videos like the one below may constitute evidence for “mini-strokes”, which, he adds, only the President has mentioned.

According to the Washington Post, a committee reporting to the mayor of Washington, D.C. has recommended wholesale renaming of buildings based on ideological impurities. To wit:

A committee reporting to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has recommended renaming dozens of public schools, parks and government buildings in the nation’s capital, after studying the historical namesakes’ connections to slavery and oppression.

The honorees whom the committee says should not have public works named for them include presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson; Revolutionary leader Benjamin Franklin; inventor Alexander Graham Bell; and national anthem writer Francis Scott Key.

Here’s an article from yesterday’s New York Times by Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate and former director of the NIH, and Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Click on it, but if you can’t read it, it’s about testing, and criticizes the CDC’s new guidelines that fewer asymptomatic people should be tested (I think those guidelines were forced on the CDC by the Trump administration).

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 184,564, an increase of about 1100 deaths over yesterday’s report. The world death toll now stands at 856,214 849,779, a big increase of about 6500 deaths from yesterday.

Stuff that happened on September 2 include:

  • 1666 – The Great Fire of London breaks out and burns for three days, destroying 10,000 buildings, including Old St Paul’s Cathedral.
  • 1752 – Great Britain, along with its overseas possessions, adopts the Gregorian calendar.
  • 1901 – Vice President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt utters the famous phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” at the Minnesota State Fair.
  • 1912 – Arthur Rose Eldred is awarded the first Eagle Scout award of the Boy Scouts of America.

Here’s Eldred (he also saved a child from drowning), the first of nearly two million Eagle Scouts:

Arthur Rose Eldred in 1912, shortly after receiving the Eagle award and his Bronze Honor medal for saving a life.


  • 1935 – The Labor Day Hurricane, the most intense hurricane to strike the United States, makes landfall at Long Key, Florida, killing at least 400.

This was the record in terms of the lowest pressure recorded in any US hurricane (892 mbar or 26.34 in Hg).

Here’s the Instrument of Surrender (click to enlarge):

The original cost estimate of the span was $250 million, so it cost more than 25 times the estimate.

Notables born on this day include:

She was the only queen who ever ruled Hawaii, and did so for only two years. Here she is on the throne:

  • 1946 – Billy Preston, American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actor (d. 2006)
  • 1948 – Terry Bradshaw, American football player, sportscaster, and actor
  • 1948 – Christa McAuliffe, American educator and astronaut (d. 1986)
  • 1964 – Keanu Reeves, Lebanese-Canadian actor, singer, and producer
  • 1966 – Salma Hayek, Mexican-American actress, director, and producer

Those whose metabolism ceased on September 2 include:

Here’s “Tiger Cat” by Rousseau.


  • 1964 – Alvin C. York, American colonel, Medal of Honor recipient (b. 1887)
  • 1969 – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnamese politician, 1st President of Vietnam (b. 1890)
  • 1973 – J. R. R. Tolkien, English novelist, short story writer, poet, and philologist (b. 1892)

Here’s Tolkien (photo from Tolkien Library):

  • 2005 – Bob Denver, American actor (b. 1935)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is avoiding Szaron and Kulka (who often visit) by sleeping in the guest room:

A: Are you sleeping here? On this hard bench?
Hili: Yes, because there are strange cats there.
A: They are not strange cats.
Hili: Everybody has his own definition.
In Polish:
Ja: Tu śpisz? Na tej twardej ławie?
Hili: Tak, bo tam są obce koty.
Ja: To nie są obce koty.
Hili: Każdy ma swoją definicję.

In nearby Wloclawek, Leon and Mietek cuddle and have a chat (their staff are both teachers, and school in Poland opened yesterday):

Leon: They went to school. Finally we have a moment of quiet.
In Polish: Poszli do szkoły? Wreszcie mamy odrobinę spokoju.

From Jesus of the Day: a real photo with the caption, “Meanwhile in Australia Angry Birds 2020 edition has started. View from a rear facing motorcycle helmet camera. Photo credit : Monique Newton.”

A cartoon sent by Woody. I’ve surely alluded to this before, but don’t remember posting a cartoon:

From Charles: A Mike Lukovich cartoon about the GOP Convention:

Singer Adele got accused big time of cultural appropriation when she wore her hair in “Bantu knots”—an African hairstyle—as well as a bikini top with the Jamaican flag on it. The occasion was the Notting Hill Carnival.

Here’s one of the Offended:

I’m on the side of Naomi Campbell (whose mother was born in Jamaica), Zoe Saldana, and Chelsea Handler, whose comments on Adele’s Instagram post are below. There’s no way that Adele is hurting anybody here, and she’s clearly appropriating black culture out of admiration. People really need to lighten up.

Tweets from Matthew: an excellent Beatles/beetles tweet:

Yesterday was the 81st anniversary of the start of WWII in Europe. Here’s a disturbing video of how the Nazis began their attack on Poland:

I didn’t look closely enough to see if the trig calculation is set up properly here, but I hope some reader will freeze the frame and let us know:

To see what the Tweeter means by “the film,” you’ll have to turn the sound up (sorry!):

And, like the awesome cat above, this Polish man nevertheless persisted:

Matthew said, “Wait until they come to the UK”, and helpfully provided a picture of UK outlets (below):